Enable Web History Without Google

by Ruud Hein May 7th, 2007 

The majority of people don't trust search engines when it comes to keeping their search behavior private.

Yet having access to your complete history is useful at times. You just know you recently read that good quote but where is it? You just can't seem to replicate the search for it.

For those of us who would wish to have the luxury of a complete web history but would like to keep Google in the dark here's a setup that works.

What you need

Setup

If not available on your computer yet, install FireFox. Next install the Scrapbook extension. Finally install AutoSave.

You can easily reach the AutoSave settings via Scarpbook settings and with the click of the mouse enable or disable autosave. I have autosave setup to not save images to save a bit of hard disk space.

When enabled, AutoSave will save every page you view in the browser in a dated Scrapbook subfolder.

Every search, every search results, every page you view: it's right there. Based on averages around the office here you can count on around 45-65MB per day (roughly 25GB per year).

Searching your web history

Desktop search programs, once done indexing your hard drive(s), index new content instantly. All good desktop search programs can be limited to return results from a specific set of folders easily.

For example, when I want to search my history using Windows Desktop Search I type:

folder:scrapbook web history

…to find each and every page with those words.

Of course with the full power of your desktop search utility at your disposal you can craft any kind of advanced search. And unlike with Google's web history, you won't run into a page that has gone offline or been edited meanwhile.

Managing your web history

The value of your web history is over time. If you delete your web history every 30 days you're less likely to benefit from it. Web history is about those references you know you saw but can't find back; and that usually happens down the line, not tomorrow.

Using Windows Explorer's built-in time views you can easily scan blocks of time. Sort by: Modified. Enable Show in Groups. Now you'll see the folders scrapbook creates grouped with headings such as "Today", "Yesterday", "Last month", "Two months ago", "Earlier this year", etc. It's easy now to select a time range and delete it.

Privacy

As with Google's web history there is the issue of privacy. Before visiting sensitive pages you might want to uncheck AutoSave (no restart required). If you use a shared computer you might want to keep the Scrapbook data on a USB stick or USB drive.

Either way, these issues are more or less the same as with Google's web history but with one important difference: this time the data belongs 100% to you.

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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